I inhale fully and hold the breath.
It’s not because of illness or disease, it’s just routine oral surgery; impacted wisdom teeth and bone grafts for future dental implants (she’s missing three permanent teeth and requires additional bone to sustain the titanium rods that will one day set off airport metal detectors).
But when you’re a mama and your 17-year-old first born is scared because of the needles and pain and oozing blood and stitches, is there anything “just routine” about it?
If I could, I’d do it for her. I’d like nothing more than to insulate all my children from the pain life can bring—physical or emotional. But that wouldn’t serve them well at all, so I’m glad not to be given the option.
While we waited for her procedure to begin—delayed close to an hour because her surgeon was called away for hospital trauma consults—I tried to occupy time and space with stories of my own childhood experiences. When my wisdom teeth were extracted, I remember a framed latch-work duck on the wall. It was late 70s ugly, tangerine and pea green, and it should’ve been replaced years before my surgery. It was the last thing I saw before nodding off to “sleep,” and I distinctly recall asking “How long will it take...” because I was worried the anesthesia wasn’t going to work for me and I’d be awake and aware during the entire procedure.
Of course, the next thing I remember was groggily waking up in recovery.
Rachel asked the same thing, ready to get it started, but mostly over. We’ve known for years implants were in her future, and this is one step in a series to restoring her smile. I wonder 30 years from now what she'll remember about today.
We were shocked to learn she was required to take a pregnancy test—what the heck does that have to do with your mouth??? (But of course, it deals with undergoing anesthesia.) Anyone who knows my daughter understand why this was comic relief for both of us—Rachel has never dated. The poor girl didn’t even know what was involved with a pregnancy test—she thought she was going to have to endure her first pelvic exam by a freakin’ oral surgeon!—so when she learned it was a urine test, her relief was audible.
My prayers for her have been less about wisdom and skill for the doctor, minimal pain and a speedy recovery, and more about her heart being calmed. That surprised her, but I know this child, the things she fears. She understands her mind is her battlefield; I didn’t learn that until my 30s.
Levity helped unrattle her nerves…we took pictures of her in hospital gown with thermo strip across her forehead and texted them to her friends; I freaked her out with my labor and delivery stories; I told her how loopy her dad was when he had his wisdom teeth out a few years ago and that I’d video her for our amusement.
Laughter temporarily anesthetizes the nerves.
Every time the surgical suite door opens, I’m compelled to look up. Minutes are no longer 60 seconds, I’m sure they’re closer to 300. This has taken twice as long as they told us it would, and while reports keep coming back that “she’s fine…everything is okay…”
…m.y. b.a.b.y. i.s. i.n. s.u.r.g.e.r.y. r.i.g.h.t. n.o.w.
And my lungs (and heart) won’t exhale until I can put my hands on my child again.